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The Risk of Developing Dementia Following a Traumatic Brain Injury

This article proposes that, although much of the discussion of the link between traumatic brain injury (TBI) and an increase risk in dementia remains unknown, research points to some very compelling evidence that this population is at a higher risk indeed.

The author hypothesizes that neurodegeneration and progressive brain atrophy are directly linked to common molecular mechanisms, namely the elevation of BACE1 enzymes and increased levels of beta amyloid deposition in both post TBI and Alzheimer’s patients (Fazzini, 2016).

The author provides the reader with a critique and summary of some key studies that have been completed focusing on the linkages (or lack thereof) between traumatic brain injury and dementia.  Fazzini (2016) then goes on to analyze molecular level data which shows that two molecules, GGA1 and GGA3 work “synergistically [to] regulate BACE1,” (p. 12) in the brain.

He further shows that these molecules are affected by traumatic brain injury (depletion in the brain) and are also present in post-mortem Alzheimer’s brains.  In fact, the resulting increase of BACE1 in traumatic brain injury survivors brains and consequently the increase in beta amyloid deposition “may be the first step in…triggering Alzheimer’s disease pathology,” (Fazzini, p. 12).

Lastly the author presents further data linking traumatic brain injury with Alzheimer’s and dementia.  After a brain injury there is an increase in tau protein deposition resulting in a disruption of normal cell networks eventually leading to cell death (Fazzini, 2016). Fazzini states that this is perhaps the most important “neuropathological mechanism by which TBI leads to dementia,” (Fazzini, 2016, p. 13).

In summary, findings show that having a traumatic brain injury can increase one’s chance of dementia to as much as 26% after the age of 65 and more than 50% after the age of 75 (Fazzini, 2016, p. 13).  The author points to the importance of these facts, not just for understanding and analyzing the needs of this population, but also to allow life care planners to accurately account for their financial needs in the future.